European Pillar of Social Rights
Following the 2016 public consultation, the European Commission presented the European Pillar of Social Rights as a formal Commission Recommendation on 26th April 2017.
The objective of the Pillar is to contribute to social progress by supporting fair and well-functioning labour markets and welfare systems and providing a framework for a set of related legislative and non-legislative initiatives in the Pillar’s areas of focus.
The central part of the Pillar focuses on three main principles:
- equal opportunities and access to the labour market;.
- fair working conditions; and.
- social protection and inclusion.
Under these headings, 20 ‘key principles’ – policy domains such as housing, education, social and health care and employment – set out the Commission’s position on social rights for citizens, and provide a framework against which Member States can benchmark their social, education and employment policies.
Children’s rights and the Pillar
Notably, principle 11 - Childcare and support to children – emphasises particular measures for children. This includes acknowledgement of the growing awareness of the importance of early childhood education and care [PDF] with better child outcomes in later life, by outlining a right to affordable education and care ‘of good quality’. Principle 11 also states the rights of a child to protection from poverty, including the right of children from disadvantaged backgrounds to ‘specific measures to enhance equal opportunities’ in order to ensure their access to adequate social support and life opportunities.
Possible measures for Member States to further progress in this area suggested by the accompanying communication include targets, indicators, earmarked budget allocations, monitoring mechanisms and national strategies on child participation, in addition to ongoing engagement with social partners.
In addition to the formal presentation of the Pillar, the Commission also announced a range of related legislative and non-legislative initiatives to progress towards the goals of the Pillar. This includes a legislative proposal on work-life balance, focusing on minimum standards for leave entitlements (namely paternity, parental and careers’ leave), leave compensation levels and flexible working arrangements. Under this proposal
- paternity leave would be extended to at least ten working days;.
- parental leave would be guaranteed for at least four months in flexible forms per parent until their child is 12 years old;.
- workers that care for ill or dependent relatives would have the right to five days of leave per year;.
- and all working parents of children up to 12 years old and carers of ill or dependent relatives would have the right to request flexible working arrangements, such as reduced hours, flexible hours and flexibility on their place of work;.
- finally, the proposal also sets the leave compensation levels, notably the level of sick pay.
Next steps: implementing the Pillar
In addition to presenting the Pillar as a formal Recommendation, the Commission has proposed that the European Pillar of Social Rights be taken forward as a joint, interinstitutional proclamation by the European Parliament, the Council and the Commission. An online ‘social scoreboard’ has also been launched to track Member State progress against key indicators across the three dimensions of the Pillar.
As a related initiative, President Jean-Claude Junker and Sweden’s Prime Minister Stefan Löfven will also co-host a ‘Social Summit for Fair Jobs and Growth’ on 17 November 2017 in Gothenburg, Sweden.